Music to our ears: Tidal backs indie musicians despite artist backlash

We’ve been ears to the ground, noses in the air, to stay close to story of Jay-Z’s new, premium music streaming service Tidal. Since launching in late March, the mega-star-backed rival to Spotify has had its fair share of drama and is making waves for both right and wrong reasons. While we wait eagerly for stats showing consumer uptake of Tidal, let’s recap on the latest news for the fledgling music service.

A music service by artists, for artists?

The main gripe with Tidal, as we know, was the circle-jerk of multi-millionaire artists (such as ‘Yonce, Jack White, Daft Punk and Alicia Keys) pleading with us on-stage to re-instate rightful reward for recording artists by shelling out a little more of our hard-earned dosh each month, for (momentarily) exclusive content and hi-def, ‘lossless’ audio. For pretty much everyone, it left a bad taste in our mouths, with few managing to really engage with Jay-Z’s grand vision. Frontman Marcus Mumford from British folk band Mumford & Sons pushed back against the service, saying: “We wouldn’t have joined it anyway, even if they had asked. We don’t want to be tribal… when they say it’s artist-owned, it’s owned by those rich, wealthy artists.” Death Cab for Cutie singer Ben Gibbard and Lily Allen also shared their distaste for the service, with Allen tweeting: “My concern is that Tidal may set emerging artists back.”

Streamlining, leveraging, consolidating, firing… wait, what?

Sadly, Tidal’s problems don’t end with a bit of flack from other artists – with the recent news that Tidal sliced 25 of its employees in a move towards “streamlining resources to ensure talent is maximized to enhance the customer experience” (a vague piece of business wank-speak, which, being a Management Consultant, is lost even on me) and at the same time dropping CEO Andy Chen in the process. Former CEO Peter Tonstad has (albeit temporarily) stepped up to the plate, no doubt to position Tidal for the next wave of offerings for its clientele, and “change the status quo”.

Murmurs on the horizon for Apple’s rival service ready to challenge Spotify, Tidal

Apple gave a hint of its imminent challenge to Spotify and Tidal with its latest software release, where, embedded among the updates was a new music app with a new look. Turns out Tidal isn’t the only one trying to woo big-name artists, with Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine rumoured to be in talks with Apple about possible partnerships. 

Unique, digital customer experiences and initiatives to support indie artists

Despite its challenges, Tidal is continuing to push the boundaries, exploring new corners of the streaming world and engaging customers in unique ways, with exclusive, digital concerts (known as Tidal X, featuring the likes of Demi Lovato and J.Cole) and even calling subscribers to thank them. Perhaps best of all, Tidal are launching initiatives to support up-and-coming, indie artists, which is music to our ears. When recently interviewed, Tidal exec Vania Schlogel discussed two initiatives, Tidal Rising (“Tidal Rising is basically that human element of bringing forward indie and emerging artists and giving them visibility as they grow their fanbases.”) and Tidal Discovery (“a way for independent and emerging artists to upload their music directly and be seen and heard.”), with a view of giving creative control and distribution power back into the hands of the artists.

You have to hand it to Jay-Z – he’s giving it a good old college-try. And while I’m still not going to fork out for Tidal, I respect his disruptive moves and desire to create a new and better digital experience for users. Plus, anything that will support greater visibility and a recognition for indie musicians has my vote.

So, what do you think? Are you a Tidal-waver? (Sorry.) Are the exclusives really worth the hype? Do your ears feel silkier and sexier now you’re being treated to ‘lossless’ audio? Let us know.

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you up to date as the Tidal-wave unfolds.